Shades of Her


Shades of Her 


this boy hollered across 

the street at me talkin’ 

about/ “hey lightskin 

lemme take you on a date/…

lemme run my hands through 

your light skinned hair/

across your light skinned hips/

lemme kiss your light skinned lips/ 

lemme love you light skinned./

he’s got me twisted/

with his eyes that roam 

the places where my body curves/

with his posture that leans towards the places

he seeks to take/

don’t call me light skinned like this 

proliferation of pigmentation/ 

makes me less than a black woman./

don’t call me light skinned 

like the rape of my great great 

grandmother ought to give me some kind 

of prize/ 

I don’t want your damn prize./

I am deep ebony motherlands

and 200 tongues/ 

I am from middle passage survivors/

Harlem writers pounding words from sidewalks/

moving in places like their black skin meant something/


don’t call me light skinned like your complementing 

the places where white men owned her/

touched her/

took her/

don’t call me light skinned like I’m gonna 

smile and bow to you/

your historical interpretations 

and miscalculations do not render me white/

stop quoting our oppressors/

stop eating your own vomit/

walk up to me right/ 

I am a black woman. /

black woman, Angela Davis 

liberating minds/ grasping things 

from their root/ black woman/

Shirley Chisolm and Rosa Parks/

black woman/ Michelle Obama, 

Maya Angelou, Oprah/ hips 

and a voice/ music/ rhythm/ language/ 



they’ve drawn color lines between us and them

for too long/

dark and thick like iron curtains and Berlin walls/

twisted our hair into fences between us/

our hips/

our shape/

our skin/

injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere/  

I am a woman./ 

black and proud/

but I am a woman./

in all these shades of black/

blue/ red/ and brown./ 

I am Malala and Alice Paul./ 

I am Harriet Jacobs and Billie Holiday./

I am Lupita N’yongo and Kerry Washington/ 

My name is not light-skinned./

I am as black as they come./

As woman as they come./ 

If you scratch at my skin deep enough/

you will find liquid black as coal/

if you peel me apart you will find the word 

woman sketched upon my lungs./ 

Don’t call me by any other name but my own./

for these divisions/

deep like caverns/

deep like words heavy with meaning/

thoughts heavy with dreaming/

only lead slowly, slowly/ 

to silence.


writer with a heavy pen

This is so amazing! I didn't know just how much I longed for a poem like this until I read it. I didn't know I felt these things until I saw them come alive in your words. This poem is the reason I love words and what they can express. Thank you!

Need to talk?

If you ever need help or support, we trust for people dealing with depression. Text HOME to 741741